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The NeatReceipts scanner is a slim, harmonica-shaped device that measures 10.8 inches by 1.6 inches by 1.3 inches (WDH) and weighs a light 10.6 ounces. You feed pages up to 8.5 inches wide through one side of the device, and they come out the back. This scanner connects to a Windows PC via its USB 2.0 port through the included cable, and it comes with receipt-management software, a carrying pouch, a plastic base stand, and a wall-mounting device. We recommend using the wall mount, as you'll need plenty of clearance to scan those long slips of paper and prevent crooked paper feeds; with the scanner affixed to a wall, you can pop a recycling bin underneath to catch the receipts. (The IRS accepts scanned receipts, so you can dispose of yours once they're digitized--as long as you back up your files!)
Installing the NeatReceipts software is quick and easy, thanks to a well-written installation guide and the CD's helpful tutorials, which walk you through the layout of the software and hardware. The basic protocol: Hook up the scanner to your computer and launch the software, slide a receipt into the scanner, then click the prominently displayed Scan button within the program's main interface.
The software is organized into four main screens: Receipt Manager creates a one-line database entry for each receipt you scan, Expense Reports lets you create a new report into which you enter receipts, Drag And Drop lets you drag the receipts between windows, and Document Manager lets you scan other documents such as utility bills or contracts. The genius of the NeatReceipts software lies in its ability to search scanned receipts for common fields such as date of purchase, total, payment method, and vendor name. Once you've scanned a receipt, its image shows up in the Receipt Manager window, and data such as vendor name and amount appear to the right. Receipt Manager tallies each line automatically and keeps a running total along the bottom of the screen.
Because the software organizes receipts and generates expense reports, you can keep track of receipts for a tax year, a month of expenditures, or a specific business trip. Once you've scanned your receipts, you can drag them into an expense report, e-mail them to someone else who uses NeatReceipts, or export them as HTML or Rich Text format or to programs such as Microsoft Excel, Word, and Money; Intuit Quicken and QuickBooks; and Adobe Acrobat.
Of course, this software does have limitations; it will recognize any vendor already listed among the 500 in its database, but you must manually enter any unknown vendor. Once you've done that, however, NeatReceipts recognizes the vendor and autocompletes this field. The software is hopeless, however, at recognizing data from faded receipts, from noncomputerized cash registers (which means most mom-and-pop shops), and from those tiny receipts on shiny paper from the gas-station pump. In these cases, you can type the information, which, thanks to the software's autocomplete skills, consumes little time.
The scanner's default resolution is 300dpi, which makes for good quality scans so that the software can parse the data. The engine can scan text and images at up to 600dpi, and it works with any TWAIN-based imaging programs. NeatReceipts claims that its device will scan a receipt in about 10 seconds, but we found that if you factor in the software recognition time, actual scan speeds are closer to 25 to 40 seconds for big-box-retailer receipts of average length.
NeatReceipts comes with a one-year warranty that includes free phone support, but it's a toll call. Phone support hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday ET; e-mail support is available during these hours as well as on weekends. When we sent a few e-mail questions about the device to the support address, we got a reply in a matter of hours.